Library Blog

Kendriya Vidyalaya Port Trust, Kochi

Tips To Improve Your Handwriting

Everyone knows handwriting analysis tells a lot about someone’s personal style, attitude, responses and personality. When you know how to analyze handwriting, it becomes a profoundly valuable asset to your other living and management skills as it gives you an added dimension when assessing the people you work and interact with.

Your handwriting also offers instant clues to your energy levels, attitudes, trustworthiness and so forth. But do you know that you can also develop auspicious handwriting that brings success luck in everything you do that requires you to write? This includes all aspects of studying, working and living, so developing lucky handwriting is something everyone can benefit from.

How you cross your T’s, dot your I’s, create your loops, start your paragraphs and slant your handwritten sentences can reveal a great deal about you… but more importantly it can also affect your success luck, so it is really worthwhile taking a closer look at your handwriting.

Writing in an auspicious way is knowledge that can help you enhance your life. Few people realize they can use their handwriting to strengthen their personal power and magnetism. Handwriting can be used to unearth hidden talents as well as jumpstart the manifestation of brilliant attainments.

Your inner strengths can be strongly magnified thereby giving you some key tools to handle yourself more effectively and interact more profitably with those you work and do business with. You can develop good habits in handwriting that work on the subconscious chi energy sent out through the fingers of your hands.

It works in the same way master calligraphers develop their writing skills. Good handwriting in Chinese always possesses strength and vigour, infused with chi that brings auspicious luck. This is why those in the know appreciate good calligraphy so much.

We can apply the basic indicators of good chi to writing the modern languages including English. The written word makes up a great deal of everyday working life. So when we consciously work at improving the luck potential of our handwriting, the sky is the limit.

Here are 8 easy ways to work on your handwriting so it brings you greater success, improving your money accumulation luck slowly but steadily.

1. Create strength & spirit in your handwriting
Do this by holding your pen with conscious feeling and as you write, visualize the essence of your inner spirit flowing from your hands into your fingers, then into your pen/pencil/brush. When you practise doing this consciously, you will find your written word getting clearer and visually sharper. As you write, become aware of the pressure you are exerting. The secret of creating chi in your fingers is to focus concentration on them. Practise exerting just enough pressure on your writing instrument – neither too hard nor too light. Keep your pressure balanced and let your pen flow smoothly. This ensures that what you undertake will not be made difficult by obstacles and hindrances.

2. Use as good a pen as you can afford
Even in the old days, Ministers at the Court of the Emperor used exquisitely made brushes each time they sat down to compose poetry or write important letters. The art of writing was a serious matter and good writing instruments were highly prized possessions. In those days, these were brushes made of the finest sable hair and tied together with the finest silks. Today, we have a range of branded pens made of gold and platinum and crafted to perfection by master craftsmen.

You do not need to buy one of these limited edition wonders made by the likes of Mont Blanc and Montegrappa, although it would be highly auspicious if you can afford them. But do invest in the best pen you can afford and imbue it with your spirit and essence. The more you use your special pen to write all your important missives and sign all your documents, the more empowered your writing becomes.

3. Make your handwriting straight
Handwriting that is straight indicates living in the present. The worst is to have handwriting that slants backwards, as this suggest a person who is always living in the past, always looking behind instead of looking ahead. It also suggests someone with little self confidence. This creates the chi of failure rather than success, so try to make your writing stand straight. If your writing slants forward, it means you often get ahead of yourself. It does NOT mean looking ahead. Slanting forward can suggest you are frequently unprepared for the job at hand. Straight handwriting suggests confidence and someone who is fair and upright as well as being well in control of situations.

4. Keep your spaces consistent
When your words have even spacing between them, it ensures that what you do will always go according to plan. Your life will benefit from good organization and well-managed staff. At work, you will find it easy to manage people and others find you reliable and responsible. When you make an effort to keep your handwriting evenly spaced with straight margins, it reflects a mind that is well ordered. You will then find it easier to make decisions efficiently and decisively.
Those who write with straight and consistent baselines usually have the valuable ability to plan ahead and exercise self-direction. Such people eventually become very self-motivated, a key ingredient of success.

5. Good idea to introduce an upstroke
Handwriting experts will tell you that when there are no upstrokes in the beginning of your words, it is a sign that you are direct, frank and efficient. You say what you feel with no beating about the bush. To some, this is a plus point. To be a success however calls for tact and diplomacy, and perhaps even a little dance before the main course. When you start your words with an upstroke, it also means that everything you do will have a good positive beginning, so it is a good idea to develop some upstrokes in your handwriting.

6. Dot your I’s and cross your T’s
Attention to detail is a great asset and can usually be the difference between success and failure. It also helps you develop memory power. When handwriting is left with i’s undotted and t’s uncrossed, it suggests jobs left half finished. This means projects get started but seldom come to successful conclusions. So when you write carelessly, how can it bring success? Attainments come to those who are both careful and thorough, so learn to be meticulous about crossing your t’s and dotting your i’s.

7. Create upper loops
To be successful, you need to have a vision for success. If you want the inner visionary in you to manifest, create upper loops in your handwriting. This engages the divine dreamer within you, and in many ways also enhances your creativity. You should not overdo this however. Choose certain key alphabets to write with an upper loop. Letters that allow for this are f’s, t’s, h’s and so forth. When the upper loops are completely missing, it means you lack vision. This may however not be such a bad thing, as sometimes dreamers tend to be too idealistic.


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Pleasures Of Reading

Reading is to mind while exercise is to the body. “A man may as well expect to grow stronger by always eating as wiser by always reading.”

But why do we really need to read? “Reading sweeps the cobwebs away.” What does this means? “Reading enhances thinking. It stretches and strains our mental muscles. It hits our narrow, delicate, intolerant views with new ideas and strong facts. It stimulates growing up instead of growing old.

In other words, reading develops us. It scratches those itches down deep inside. It takes us through virgin territory we would not otherwise discover.

There are three classifications of reader: simple reader, gentle reader and intelligent reader.

The Simple reader is an ordinary book consumer who read to make use of his spare time. Without any definite purpose, more often than not he does not read a book the second time.

The Gentle reader, who wants to grow and who turns to books as a means of purifying his tastes depends his feelings, broadening his sympathies and enhancing his joy in life. He reads not from a constraint of fashion of learning, but from a thirst of pleasure. Such enjoyment re-establish the heart and quickens it, makes it stronger to endure the ills of life and more fertile in all good fruits of courage, love and cheerfulness.

The Intelligent reader is the particular type of reader whose aim in reading is to obtain better acquaintance with facts. His greatest desire is to learn about things and he treasures books because of the accuracy of information they contain.

To become a good reader, here are some pointers.

– Maintain a healthful routine. This means that to read at your best, you must be in good physical condition. Most of us read only when we are stranded in an island or when we. are confined in the hospital.

– When reading avoid unnecessary distractions. Some people we know have trained themselves to read in noisy surroundings. Most persons, however, find it easier to read in a disturbing sights and sounds.

– Have a clear objective for your reading. Why do you read? And why do you read that kind of book? When you turn the printed page, you should have a clear purpose for reading in mind. Just saying the word’s silently while your mind is elsewhere, or when you have no goal for your reading, is a waste of time.

– Get into the habit of reading widely. You can improve your reading ability only by reading abundantly. Get into the habit of reading a great deal. You may start with light materials – with a popular magazine, a daily newspaper, or a book of easy short stories.

Find time to discover the richness of reading. Reading can make you rich in mind and soul. Try reading, you’ll enjoy it!


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Reading To A Baby

You may wonder about the benefits of reading to your baby. Clearly an infant can’t understand what you’re doing or why. But you wouldn’t wait until your child could understand what you were saying before you started speaking to him or her, right? And you wouldn’t bypass lullabies until your baby could carry a tune or wait until he or she could shake a rattle before you offered any toys.

Reading aloud to your baby is a wonderful shared activity you can continue for years to come — and it’s an important form of stimulation.

Reading aloud:

– teaches a baby about communication
– introduces concepts such as numbers, letters, colors, and shapes in a fun way
– builds listening, memory, and vocabulary skills
– gives babies information about the world around them

Believe it or not, by the time babies reach their first birthday they will have learned all the sounds needed to speak their native language. The more stories you read aloud, the more words your child will be exposed to and the better he or she will be able to talk. Hearing words helps to imprint them on a baby’s brain. Kids whose parents frequently talk/read to them know more words by age 2 than children who have not been read to. And kids who are read to during their early years are more likely to learn to read at the right time.

When reading, your child hears you using many different emotions and expressive sounds, which fosters social and emotional development. Reading also invites your baby to look, point, touch, and answer questions — all of which promote social development and thinking skills. And your baby improves language skills by imitating sounds, recognizing images, and learning words.

But perhaps the most important reason to read aloud is that it makes a connection between the things your baby loves the most — your voice and closeness to you — and books. Spending time reading to your baby shows that reading is a skill worth learning.


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Introducing Kids To Libraries

In an effort to develop an early love of reading and encourage usage, libraries these days are increasingly child friendly. But when is the best time to introduce your child to this exciting new world?

Each Kid is Different

The first thing to remember is that each child is different. That may sound obvious, but it’s easy to overlook how different in temperament children of the same age can be, even when they’ve grown up in the same environment. Ask any parent! For this reason, it’s impossible to offer guidelines on the basis of age. One should consider the child’s temperament. One child may enjoy the peaceful environment of the library and be content to spend long periods looking through the books on offer, whilst another of the same age may be bored and thus disruptive to other library users.

Stand in their Shoes

Try and think like a small child when considering your first trip to the library. Put yourselves in their little shoes, if you will. Remember that a child has a very short attention span compared to an adult, and will require stimulation to retain concentration for more than a very short period. It is perfectly normal for some young children to be bored by hand-off type entertainment, so bearing this in mind it may be sensible to limit your first visits to the library to short trips whilst just choosing a book.

Entice Kids into the Library

Although a child will find the different environment of the library interesting, it’s best to keep the first visit short in order to maintain their interest. The new people, interesting things to look at and different activities to explore will all appeal to a young child, and you can make each visit a little longer to enable them to explore this new environment at their own pace. The aim is to make the library a relaxed, interesting and friendly place to visit and to develop a lifelong passion for visiting. By not overwhelming your child on their first visit, you should be able to ensure that your child will look forward to their subsequent trips.

One idea for a first outing to the library would be order a book in advance, either by phone or online, and then take your child into the library with you when you visit the front desk to collect it. It will provide a brief introduction without allowing the child to become bored.

Libraries Like Kids, Too!

Do investigate what activities your local library offers for young children. Many recognise that the library can become a part of a child’s life long before they can read and offer activities from a child’s first year. These may include readings from popular children’s books, or perhaps puppet shows or re-enactments of favourite stories. For older children there may additionally be reading challenges, competitions or other interesting events scheduled.

Finally, don’t underestimate the importance of visiting the library in teaching your child valuable social skills which will be invaluable for the future. Learning to replace books and take care of them teaches respect for things which do not belong to them, whilst behaving quietly and showing consideration for other library users teaches personal responsibility.

Introducing your child to the wonderful world of libraries whilst they are young will ensure that they grow up appreciating and making the most of this most marvelous resource.


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50 Books You Must Read

Isn’t it a wonder that even in these hectic times when channel surfing is almost second nature to most children, books still endure! No wonder book exhibitions are such a crowd puller. Books have been with us for thousands of years and will remain with us (in any format) as long as one happily welcomes a cuddle down with a favourite engrosser.

Here is a list of 50 books you ought to read in your lifetime.

1984: George Orwell (Penguin)

The book that gave us Big Brother and Room 101 provides a compelling and chilling view of a totalitarian state. Even more horrifying than the loss of freedom is the constant rewriting of history which effectively removes the past. Although Winston and Julia’s love affair provides a temporary haven, their fate is inescapable. JH

A Clockwork Orange: Anthony Burgess (Penguin)

Burgess invented a whole new language, a kind of Russian cockney called Nadset, for his unnerving dystopian fantasy. Alex and his gang of teenage “droogs” pillage in a fragmented urban landscape, raping and robbing at will, until police try to recondition his mind through nauseating aversion therapy. Think ID cards, Asbos and hoodies. JR

A Kestrel for a Knave: Barry Hines (Penguin)

A favourite school text in the 60s and 70s. Many children at the time will have identified greatly with this gritty portrayal of northern life and schooling. The swearing was an added bonus for any 13-year-old and the contemporary jacket – featuring a film still of hero Billy Casper flicking a V-sign – sums up this rebellious, rough and rude classic of 60s social realism. KN

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland: Lewis Carroll (Penguin)

Lewis Carroll’s weird and wonderful tale of what happened when Alice fell down the rabbit hole. Peopled by fantastic characters like Old Father William and the Cheshire Cat, readers of all ages will cheer Alice on as she organises the prizes for the Dodo race and reproves the jurors at the Knave of Hearts’ trial. JH

American Psycho: Brett Easton Ellis (Macmillan)

Patrick Batemen swims through the status-conscious shark pool of 1980s New York, where the Wall Street dealers enjoy coke-fuelled sneering, preening and sexual conquests. Patrick has even less regard for others than his peers, and unwinds by killing them. The satire is as sharp as the tailoring in this horrific, hilarious novel. MW

Breakfast at Tiffany’s: Truman Capote (Penguin)

The story of beautiful, glamorous, impossibly remote Holly Golightly. Her apartment rings to the sound of her cocktail parties, at which millionaires and gangsters are equally at home, but her past is shrouded in mystery. Capote’s novella charts her quest to find a place where she feels she can belong. SC

Brighton Rock: Graham Greene (Random House)

“Hale knew, before he had been in Brighton three hours, that they meant to murder him.” So Greene opens his rollercoaster ride through the gang underworld of the seaside town. The lead characters, nihilistic thug Pinkie and happy-go-luck hooker Ida, can feel more like archetypes used to explore the nature of sin and morality. But a breathless thriller-style plot carries the day. JR

Catch-22: Joseph Heller (Random House)

It is remarkable that Catch-22, a hilarious but savage indictment of the military system, was published a mere 16 years after the end of the second world war. Yossarian struggles to remain sane amid an onslaught of absurdities and a cast of cranks. Today Heller’s dazzling, surreal achievement is undimmed. JR

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: Roald Dahl (Penguin)

Dahl knew exactly what excites children: chocolate. Read Charlie’s uplifting tale to any primary school class today, and they’ll be wide-eyed, hungry for the next chapter. Uproarous, surreal, and sprinkled with wry asides, the story features a cavalcade of unforgettable characters, from sickly Augustus Gloop to spoilt Veruca Salt and the Oompaloompas. JR

Close Range: Brokeback Mountain and other stories: Annie Proulx (HarperCollins)

It would be hard to imagine a finer short story writer and pretty nigh impossible to recall a better collection. Any one of the 11 tales of hardship and endurance set within the communities of ranchers, cowpokes and country wives in the unforgiving Wyoming landscape would make a fine film. In the event, one made a great one. AG

Devil in a Blue Dress: Walter Mosley (Serpent’s Tail)

Walter Mosley’s first published novel (he was working as a computer programmer at the time) was an instant hit in 1990. With the central character, Easy Rawlins, Mosley gave an African-American twist to the gumshoe tradition, and Rawlins’ search for a missing girl in the immediate postwar period allowed Mosley to address race issues generally ignored in the annals of classic private-eye literature. AP

Different Seasons (includes The Shawshank Redemption): Stephen King (Hodder)

Perhaps, like many, you thought King only wrote horror and wasn’t for you. Perhaps, like many, you don’t like short stories and look for a bigger, more satisfying novel. I bet you live on your own and like staying in a lot too. Different Seasons is a triumph unequalled in that it contains four totally gripping and unique novellas in one volume that has inspired not one but three great films: The Shawshank Redemption, Stand By Me, and Apt Pupil. Live a little – just read it. AG

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?: Philip K Dick (Orion)

Earth has been devastated by war, and through its ruins stalks bounty hunter Rick Deckard, seeking renegade replicants. With his bounty money he dreams of buying a live animal, the ultimate status symbol in a world almost bereft of animal life. And then he falls for a replicant and his life becomes a nightmare of subterfuge and deceit. JH

Doctor Zhivago: Boris Pasternak (Random House)

An intense and memorable love story set during the Russian revolution. Caught in the tide of events that swept Moscow during the early 20th century, physician and poet Yuri Zhivago wrestles with the politics of the new order and the anguish of loving a woman who is not his wife. SC

Empire of the Sun: JG Ballard (HarperCollins)

Many of Ballard’s earlier great novels borrowed from his childhood experiences in 1940s Shanghai, but when he finally came to record his own early years, albeit disguised as another novel, a true masterpiece was unveiled. Written over 20 years ago, Empire is a literary jewel that towers over many of the lesser novels that somehow managed to beat it to the Booker in the 80s. AG

Fight Club: Chuck Pahluniak (Random House)

The archetypal fable of anti-corporate discontent, Fight Club was apparently inspired after a holiday beating administered to author Chuck Pahluniak. The central character, never named, encounters charismatic anarchist Tyler Durden, and is drawn into a world of violence, subversion and “space monkeys”, wreaking terror on society at large via a campaign called Project Mayhem. AP

Get Shorty: Elmore Leonard (Penguin)

If you claim a passing interest in crime fiction, or boast a film buff’s knowledge of Hollywood and its workings, or possess a thorough understanding of modern meaning for the word “cool”, you’re a fraud unless you’ve read this book. The film was MDF covered with polished veneer; the novel, solid gleaming oak. AG

Goldfinger: Ian Fleming (Penguin)

In this chilled cocktail of espionage and existentialism, the calculating, cold war lady-killer pits his wits against the notorious Auric Goldfinger. A world away from the martini-quaffing , clowning lothario of the movies, Fleming’s Bond is colder, crueller and more brilliant. Whether writing about girls, guns or golf, nobody does it better. MW

Goodfellas: Nicholas Pileggi (Bloomsbury)

An account of a real-life mobster’s criminal career before he turned himself in as a federal witness. Originally published under the title Wiseguy, the book tells the true story of Henry Hill: “At the age of 12 my ambition was to be a gangster … To be a wiseguy was to own the world.” KN

Heart of Darkness: Joseph Conrad (OUP)

Still the debate rages: is Conrad’s novella an incisive critique of colonialism, or does it reinforce the very racist values it claims to unmask? Either way, his shrouded account of Marlow’s journey into the “god-forsaken wilderness” of the Congo demands to be read. At its core lies the enigmatic, awesome Kurtz, and civilisation itself. “And this also,’ said Marlow suddenly, ‘has been one of the dark places of the earth.'” JR

Jaws: Peter Benchley (Macmillan)

This is pulp fiction of the very best kind. Jaws was a monster of a bestseller long before that much-imitated soundtrack achieved ubiquity. A great book to get teenage boys interested in reading: big sharks, stacks of action, a bit of science and, as I remember, it even gets a bit steamy once or twice! KN

LA Confidential: James Ellroy (Random House)

Ellroy is not for lovers of cappuccino, latte, decaf or any of that nonsense. His novels represent the deadly rich aroma and slimy strength of a double espresso. Each sentence of this, his most essential novel set among corrupt policemen in 50s LA, has been lovingly prepared and should be sipped over a long period to fully appreciate its power and brilliance. AG

Les Liaisons Dangereuses: Choderlos de Laclos (OUP)

A breathtakingly amoral celebration of libertinism, presented as a series of letters between the calculating central characters and their victims, first published in 1782. The damned, devastating charmer Valmont determines to seduce the virtuous, retiring wife of Monsieur de Tourvel, and win a wager with his conspirator the Marquise de Merteuil. MW

Lolita: Vladimir Nabokov (Penguin)

With its unreliable narrator and ambiguous tone, Lolita avoids drawing any definite moral conclusions from this notorious story of ageing academic Humbert Humbert and his obsessive confusion of lust and love for a 12-year-old girl. It is Nabokov’s playful prose, however, that is the most bewitching aspect of this novel. MW

Lord of the Flies: William Golding (Faber)

“‘I ought to be chief,’ said Jack with simple arrogance, ‘because I’m chapter chorister and head boy. I can sing C sharp’.” The other boys disagree, and Ralph is elected leader thanks to his skills with a conch. That’s the end of democracy on the island, as the plane-wrecked group descend into savagery. Golding’s fable retains its full moral force. JR

Oliver Twist: Charles Dickens (OUP)

Orphan Oliver flees his cruel apprentice-master for London, where he falls in with a group of thieves, headed by Fagin and the brutal Bill Sykes. Rescued by philanthropic Mr Brownlow, he is recaptured by the gang, who have fallen in with his grasping half-brother. Good eventually triumphs when Oliver is saved again and the gang leaders brought to justice. SC

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest: Ken Kesey (Penguin)

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was a direct attack on the abusive and inhumane treatment of the mentally ill in the middle of the 20th century. It should also be read as an attack on all forms of authority and a celebration of the free spirit. Fast-living anti-hero Randall P McMurphy has a literary ancestor in Mark Twain’s freewheeling and rebellious Huckleberry Finn. KN

Orlando: Virgina Woolf (Penguin)

Orlando is a young Englishman who lives during Elizabeth I’s reign and for centuries afterwards, refuses to grow old and metamorphoses into a woman. This extraordinary novel is a rich celebration of literature, from Elizabethan heroic verse to Woolf’s modernist contemporaries, and has also been read as a love letter to Vita Sackville-West. MW

Pride and Prejudice: Jane Austen (OUP)

Love conquers all in Georgian England. In her quintessential comedy of manners, Austen charts the five Bennet daughters’ adventures on the marriage market with insight, wit and a keen eye for the ridiculous. The central love story between impetuous Elizabeth and dashing-but-aloof Mr Darcy has captivated successive generations of readers. SC

Rebecca: Daphne du Maurier (Time Warner)

On holiday in Monte Carlo, the nameless heroine of Daphne du Maurier’s darkly gothic romance meets and marries the handsome Maxim de Winter and returns with him to his brooding mansion, Manderley. But the lengthy shadow cast by his late first wife, Rebecca, proves impossible to escape. SC

Schindler’s Ark: Thomas Keneally (Hodder)

The story of Oscar Schindler, self-made entrepreneur and bon viveur who almost by default found himself saving Polish Jews from the Nazi death machine. Based on numerous eyewitness accounts, Keneally’s story is unbearably moving but never melodramatic, a testament to the almost unimaginable horrors of Hitler’s attempts to make Europe judenfrei. JH

Sin City: Frank Miller (Dark Horse Comics)

Dark, cynical tales from the mean streets of Miller’s beautifully drawn but desperate and doom-laden city. A collection of curvy dames, haunted thugs and screwed-up villains struggle to survive in a vipers’ nest of treachery and stylish immorality. The monochrome artwork is unique, dramatic and filled with long shadows that ooze noirish cool. MW

Tess of the D’Urbevilles: Thomas Hardy (OUP)

Readers still weep for Tess. She starts out as a delicate girl, a “mere vessel of emotion untinctured by experience,” but is inexorably corrupted by a cruel world. Hardy poured all his heart into her, interweaving her tragedy with Wessex’s hallucinatory landscape and ballad traditions. JR

The Day of the Triffids: John Wyndham (Penguin)

Forget the dodgy special effects of the filmed version; Wyndham’s writing lies very much at the sophisticated end of the sci-fi spectrum and 55 years after publication, The Day of the Triffids still has interesting things to say about catastrophic environmental change and societal breakdown. A fantastic, frightening, high-concept page-turner. KN

The English Patient: Michael Ondaatjee (Bloomsbury)

Ondaatje’s Booker prize-winning novel is set in the ruins of a palatial Italian villa, amid the dying embers of the second world war. Nurse Hana and sapper Kip care for a badly burned Englishman, who reveals his haunting story in fragments. A spellbinding thriller of lost love, told in luminous, poetic prose. JR

The French Lieutenant’s Woman: John Fowles (Random House)

In his most acclaimed novel, Fowles marries a timeless love-triangle story with a pitch-perfect description of the crisis of Darwinism in late-Victorian England. The book is afforded classic status by Fowles’ subtle postmodern dissection of the art of the novelist (he memorably offers the reader a choice of three endings). SC

The Godfather: Mario Puzo (Random House)

A gripping narrative that takes you into the heart of the murky world of the mafia, where the all-powerful Corleones are under threat from new ways and new men. Brilliantly realised, Puzo reveals a world where the lawmen are morally more corrupt than the mobsters who operate under an inviolable law of loyalty to family and friends. JH

The Hound of the Baskervilles: Arthur Conan Doyle (OUP)

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s most famous story is this sinister, gothic tale of the glowing canine terrorising Baskerville Hall. Although the uneasy atmosphere of the supernatural circles this story like mist on Grimpen Moor, Sherlock Holmes brings his brilliant logical mind to bear on the mystery of the “bogie hound”. MW

The Jungle Book: Rudyard Kipling (OUP)

The books (there was a second) were written over 110 years ago and represent much more than just a children’s classic. They represent Kipling’s entire philosophy of life in a complex literary work of art. For 30 years, he was perhaps the most popular writer and poet in English. Underpinned by his abiding theme of self-discovery, these books are an incredible revelation. AG

The Maltese Falcon: Dashiell Hammett (Orion)

A former Pinkerton’s agent, Dashiell Hammett virtually invented the hardboiled private-eye genre with this 1930 novel. Introducing Sam Spade, “a blond satan”, Hammett set up a convoluted mystery larded with snappy dialogue, brooding tension, grotesque characters, and a louche-but-tough morality. Its success saw Hammett courted by Paramount studios and an extended, erratic stay in Hollywood. AP

The Outsiders: SE Hinton (Puffin)

A first-person account of tribal divisions at a US high school by Ponyboy Curtis, a “greaser” whose life is dominated by strife with the better-off “socs”, or “socials”. Written in her teens by Susie “SE” Hinton as a conscious rebellion against the way teenagers were generally portrayed in American fiction, The Outsiders fitted perfectly with the chaos-riven late-60s world in which it was published. AP

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie: Muriel Spark (Penguin)

Muriel Spark’s sixth novel, published in 1961, remains by far her best-loved, and the one for which she will always be remembered. The eponymous Brodie is a teacher in an Edinburgh girls’ school, intent on instilling her own high, if dubious, ideals into her charges. It has literary audacity – a dizzying cocktail of time shifts, irony, and character manipulation – but no one can miss its rich, sharp humour. AP

The Railway Children: Edith Nesbitt (Penguin)

When their father is arrested, Roberta, Peter, Phyllis and their mother must leave comfortable London for the country. The children become fascinated by the railway at the bottom of the garden, and wave everyday to a kindly passenger on the London train, who ultimately holds the key to their father’s freedom. SC

The Remains of the Day: Kazuo Ishiguro (Faber)

Ishiguro’s Booker prize-winning novel is narrated by Stevens, a butler whose profession has subsumed his emotional life. On a motoring tour on the way to meet his former housekeeper, Stevens relates the events of his career and the reader discovers through the chinks in the narrative the heartbreak that lies behind his painfully reserved facade. SC

The Spy Who Came in From the Cold: John Le Carré (Hodder)

The classic Cold War espionage novel exposes the lengths to which governments will go in the name of national security – and the paranoia that affected everybody after the second world war. Tightly plotted and truly gripping, Le Carre’s byzantine plot is slowly revealed layer after layer until the shocking end. JH

The Talented Mr Ripley: Patricia Highsmith (Random House)

The first of Patricia Highsmith’s five novels about the amoral Tom Ripley, this 1955 masterpiece is the ultimate identity-theft thriller. Ripley stalks and then kills his well-off friend Dickie Greenleaf, assumes his name and lifestyle, and finally steals his inheritance money after forging Greenleaf’s will. AP

The Vanishing: Tim Krabbé (Bloomsbury)

Originally titled The Golden Egg, this Dutch novel by Tim Krabbé (brother of film actor Jeroen) is a simply written but thoroughly chilling account of an abduction and murder from two different points of view: the left-behind partner, and the killer himself. The final sequence, of their encounter and what transpires, is arguably the most quietly horrific in any literature. AP

To Kill a Mockingbird: Harper Lee (Random House)

Set in 1930s Alabama, eight-year-old Scout Finch can’t understand why people are so upset when her father, the town attorney, takes his role of defending a black man accused of raping a white woman seriously. The events surrounding the trial change the town, its inhabitants and the Finch family profoundly: a book that everyone should read. JH

Trainspotting: Irvine Walsh (Random House)

Trainspotting is a foul-mouthed, grotesque and hysterical depiction of the drug-fuelled underbelly of Britain in the 90s. Irvine Welsh’s first novel is not simply a gratuitous tour of the Edinburgh slums, though; it takes on issues of cultural divide, violence and male relationships in an uncomfortable, difficult, but often hilarious, street argot. KN

Watership Down: Richard Adams (Penguin)

The adventures of Fiver, his brother Hazel, and a cast of other talking rabbits will live long in the memory of many a child of the 70s. Worth re-reading as an adult to fully appreciate Richard Adams’ rendering of the rabbit world and what he was actually trying to say about the environment and even human relationships. KN


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Book Highlight

Told in diary form by an irresistible heroine, this playful and perceptive novel from the New York Times bestselling author of the May Bird trilogy sparkles with science, myth, magic, and the strange beauty of the everyday marvels we sometimes forget to notice.

Spirited, restless Gracie Lockwood has lived in Cliffden, Maine, her whole life. She’s a typical girl in an atypical world: one where sasquatches helped to win the Civil War, where dragons glide over Route 1 on their way south for the winter (sometimes burning down a T.J. Maxx or an Applebee’s along the way), where giants hide in caves near LA and mermaids hunt along the beaches, and where Dark Clouds come for people when they die.

To Gracie it’s all pretty ho-hum…until a Cloud comes looking for her little brother Sam, turning her small-town life upside down. Determined to protect Sam against all odds, her parents pack the family into a used Winnebago and set out on an epic search for a safe place that most people say doesn’t exist: The Extraordinary World. It’s rumored to lie at the ends of the earth, and no one has ever made it there and lived to tell the tale. To reach it, the Lockwoods will have to learn to believe in each other—and to trust that the world holds more possibilities than they’ve ever imagined.

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